To Photoshop or not to Photoshop

Photoshop is cheating. There, I said it. But it’s not that simple, not by a LONG way!

The Planet Hollywood sign in Las Vegas, NV

….. but the light’s all wrong!

There are different ways to look at anything and I’m something of a purist really when it comes to competition or comparison.

In sport, for example, I’d rather everyone compete on a basic, level playing field using identical equipment, clothing and everything.

Have you ever seen olympic archers? Their bows seem to be made up of more weights, balances and assisting devices than the actual bow itself.

It seems like you barely need the archer, the bow does all the work, it just needs someone to pull the string back.

That’s grossly unfair to the archers though. Like any sport, archery is extremely difficult and the stuff they add to their bows just helps to tune and hone their natural talent. All that equipment is useless without a great archer behind it.

It still feels like cheating to me.

Photoshop feels like cheating, too

I feel the same way about Photoshop (or any other image manipulation program).

What you can do with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom is nothing short of art. A great artist can take an image and use the tools in the software to do absolutely amazing things.

Some of the images you see every day are incredible composites of other photo’s and expertly used tools.

I have no problem with people creating works of art like that, it’s just not photography though. In my opinion.

Photography is the art of capturing an image through the lens of a camera. Manipulating that image later, even if just to adjust the contrast or brightness is not photography, it’s art.

When I see a photo, I want to see exactly what the camera saw, not an image created using what the camera saw as a base.

It’s never that easy….

There’s a problem with that though…. because using a ‘better’ camera is surely therefore also cheating.

Changing the settings to hold the lens open for a longer or shorter period or adjusting the aperture modifies what the lens sees in very much the same way as Photoshop modifies what the camera records.

Even saving the image taken into the camera’s memory means some interpolation and manipulation happens, depending on what file format you use to save the image.

I get that, I really do.

When I see a great photograph, I want to know though that had I been standing next to the photographer at the time it was taken, used the same settings and captured the image at exactly the same moment, I could have taken that same photograph. I want to know that when comparing photographs, we are actually comparing people’s skills with a camera.

This rant could be taken as a long whine from someone who doesn’t know how to use Photoshop, but that’s not what I’m trying to do. My intention here is to explain why I don’t use Photoshop or any other tool to manipulate my images (apart from resizing and occasional trimming).

I want to explain my philosophy as a photographer.

I realize there are many sides to this discussion and there are many different types of photography. I also freely admit that, in general, to create an amazing photoshopped image, you need to start with a great photo – and that some of the people out there creating images are artists of the highest order.

I’m not going to Photoshop though. What I see is what you get. The quality of the camera helps immensely but anything I put on this website, you could have done too, had you been standing next to me.

So, if you like any of my photography, I want to encourage you that you can take photos that are every bit as good, and most likely better than mine. Just pick up your camera and start snapping pictures…. that’s what I do!

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3 Comments

  1. can I have your photoshop stuff then?!

  2. well, it was worth a try!!

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